Commentary says Russia conducts "zombie politics" in Dagestan

Moscow conducts "zombie politics" in its southern region of Dagestan by placing people with little influence as its leaders, a commentator has said in a Dagestani weekly. The article quoted Khasavyurt mayor Saygidpasha Umarov as saying that deciding on who will lead Dagestan is "within the exclusive jurisdiction" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Dagestani public can only guess about reasons behind this policy, the article said. Meanwhile, opposition to the incumbent head of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, convened in secret for the second extraordinary congress of the peoples of Dagestan in Makhachkala. Delegates from various Dagestani towns and districts accused Abdulatipov of leading the region to "all-out corruption, poverty and unemployment, persecution of citizens for political and religious reasons, and mass violations of the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens and peoples of Dagestan" and urged Putin to replace him. The following is the text of Ruslan Magomedov’s article published on the website of Chernovik newspaper on 6 June, headlined "’Clandestine’ gathering and ‘zombie’"; subheadings as published:

The second extraordinary congress of the peoples of Dagestan gathered in an extreme secrecy in a public catering building called Rozovyy Flamingo [Pink Flamingo] in Makhachkala on 31 May. The organizers say that a considerable number of people, 271 delegates from towns and districts, attended the event. Due to the secrecy of the congress, the public found out about it only from scant information that appeared in the social media. The reason for the secrecy was the stern response of law-enforcement bodies to attempts by public figures to convene it earlier… [ellipsis as given throughout]

Between the first and…

The first extraordinary congress of the peoples of Dagestan took place at the Kosmos hotel in Moscow in November 2012. It was directed against the then president of Dagestan, Magomedsalam Magomedov, and was accompanied by numerous revelations and scandals. The then Dagestani authorities did not take seriously (and actively announced this) the delegates; some were detained, some were shot at and some became the target of revelatory press conferences and articles in the official press… However, eventually everything came together (and maybe did not): the outcome of the congress at the Kosmos was that Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom the delegates asked to replace the government in Dagestan, decided that Magomedov has to work in the Kremlin and Ramazan Abdulatipov, a State Duma MP that everybody had forgotten about, has to "liberate the republic from slavery".

Back then the people behind the first extraordinary congress and opposition activity of a number of Dagestani public organizations, for example Gadzhimurad Omarov, the head of the local branch of the A Just Russia party; the former head of the Pension Fund of Dagestan, Amuchi Amutinov; and human rights activist Ruslan Rasulov, welcomed these changes. At the initial stage they even supported Abdulatipov in his policies. However, something went wrong in the relations between the new government and new opposition…

The opposition began talking of their intention to hold the second congress long ago. They regularly discussed policies carried out by the head of Dagestan and criticized his personnel policy when relatives of Abdulatipov came to power and people affiliated with him were appointed to local government bodies (as a case in point, take the election of the head of Kulinskiy District in 2013).

The opposition politicians could not hold the second extraordinary congress publicly, with invitations to the media and government officials. Police thwarted the event that was scheduled for 19-20 April in the Rossiya cinema in Makhachkala.

Now bearing in mind that "war is all about tricks", the organizing committee of the congress first reported in the media that the delegates would meet again in Moscow in mid-June, and held the extraordinary congress in Makhachkala under the guise of a conference of the Dagestani regional branch of A Just Russia. Kavkazskiy Uzel quoted Ruslan Rasulov as saying that this was done "for the sake of secrecy, in order to fool the authorities and not let them use mixed squads of turncoats with epaulettes and criminals to thwart once more the congress of the peoples of Dagestan, as they did on 19 April".

Words and deeds

At the congress where, according to information that the organizers published, Amutinov was the chairperson and Omarov assisted him, the delegates again suggested that the Russian president dismiss the head of Dagestan ahead of time. According to their opinion, Abdulatipov’s words diverge significantly from his deeds and over the past two years this led Dagestan to "all-out corruption, poverty and unemployment, persecution of citizens for political and religious reasons, and mass violations of the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens and peoples of Dagestan". The measures Abdulatipov passed "are not adequate to the situation and lead to a further destabilization of it", according to the delegates. "The situation in the republic is worsening catastrophically and is already on the verge of a social explosion," they warn Putin. As replacements for Abdulatipov they suggested three politicians: [head of the local branch of the A Just Russia party] Gadzhimurad Omarov; First Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council Ilyas Umakhanov and Khasavyurt mayor Saygidpasha Umakhanov. These surnames emerged as a result of a kind of primaries the delegates conducted in the course of the congress. In fact, as the basis they used a slightly amended list of surnames from the "Dagestani ranking of influence. Version 2.0" (Chernovik’s issue No 19 of 16 May 2014).

Incidentally, Denga Khalidov, an aide to the head of Dagestan, responded to the list of candidates and described the congress as a "clandestine gathering", "hack job" and a "theatre of the absurd". In his comments for RIA Dagestan [news agency] he dismissed accusations of corruption and destabilizing the situation in the republic levelled against the team of the head of Dagestan. Khalidov demanded that the Umakhanovs publicly dissociate themselves from this event.

This is how Saygidpasha Umakhanov responded to his promotion through the city administration’s website: "I am honoured that Dagestanis paid attention to my humble person. Thank you. At the same time I wish to point out that as an acting head of local government I am a member of Ramazan Abdulatipov’s team and I put in all my efforts and energy to conduct the policy he chose for renewal and further development of Dagestan. I do not hatch any thoughts, aspirations and attempts to take the chair of the first person of Dagestan." The reaction of Ilyas Umakhanov remains unknown…

"Zombie" politics

Saygidpasha Umakhanov, eschewing a promotion, uttered another statement that is important according to Chernovik: "In fact, it is high time for all of us to become realists and understand that resolving this matter is within the exclusive jurisdiction of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin". In other words, it is in no way up to Dagestanis themselves, their opinion and their vision of the situation who will lead Dagestan. (Meanwhile, 32 Russian regions will have popular elections of the heads of territories and regions.)

Dagestani politics is different from politics in other federation regions because "zombie politics" is possible here. Only in Dagestan can a "political corpse", a person who discredited himself or has no influence, "stand and walk" instructions from Putin! Let us recall the period of the State Council and [former Dagestani leader] Mukhu Aliyev. In that historical period did anybody believe that a politician openly considered to be weak would lead the republic? Only idealists did. Recall the period of relations between Mukhu Aliyev and [his successor] Magomedsalam Magomedov. Was Magomedov considered influential and promising after he was thrown from his post of the chairman of the People’s Assembly [parliament]? No. The extent to which his political outlook looked bleak can be judged from the number of close friends who turned away from him. However, at the end of 2009 he "came back to life" and in 2010 headed the republic. Just two years later, Ramazan Abdulatipov replaced him. The Dagestani public had already forgotten about Abdulatipov and had long lost the desire to see him as Dagestani leader…

We can only guess (there are corruption theories, as well as theories of ploys as intricate as Chinese stratagems) about the policy of the federal centre, which imposes on us "dark horses" (who lack real political weight and authority in society). Hence, Dagestanis (including those who sit in numerous cabinets of the [Makhachkala] White House) can only speculate whom the Kremlin will decide to be the Dagestani leader this time round. (What is more, it is absolutely not important whether this will take place five years from now – if we believe Abdulatipov, or in September – if we believe rumours.)

Who will they bet on? On the Umakhanovs (Ilyas or Saygidpasha), [Chechnya’s] Ramzan Kadyrov, [Russian presidential envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District] Sergey Melikov or [former head of the Dagestan Directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service] Nikolay Gryaznov? May be on Gadzhimurad Omarov? Time will show. For the time being our government seeks to please the federal centre (although federalism usually involves a somewhat different kind of relations) in every way, and pushes away from it society which – owing to the acting Dagestani president’s fear of losing the election to [the currently imprisoned] Makhachkala mayor Said Amirov and owing to the conformism of members of the People’s Assembly – has been deprived of the opportunity to decide who will lead the republic.

[BBCM note: The last sentence says "acting Dagestani president". However, Dagestani leader Ramazan Abdulatipov’s official title no longer includes the word "acting".]

Source: Chernovik, Makhachkala, in Russian 6 Jun 14



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